When Would You Walk Away?

Sean decided to take down his post on his shooting class, but Tam brings up the interesting topic of walking away. Just when would you do it? I tend to think I wouldn’t walk away from a class I drove a long way for, and paid for, unless the violations were pretty blatantly unsafe, more important, jeopardized my safety. I’d probably be more tolerant of minor stupidity that jeopardized the instructor. I’d be tempted to stick around just to see how much other blog fodder I can get out of the class. But to everything there are limits. I definitely wouldn’t agree to draw a gun, even one I had verified is unloaded, with someone downrange. But a gun with the slide locked back and no magazine in it? I definitely wouldn’t appreciate an instructor who was waving it around like a squirt gun, but I probably wouldn’t have it in me to have a cow over it. I was also surprised that people believed blue guns should be treated like regular guns. I thought the purpose of a blue gun was so you could do things with it you wouldn’t want to do with real firearms? When would you leave a class over safety concerns? Do you have to follow the 4 rules with blue guns? What’s your opinion.

35 thoughts on “When Would You Walk Away?”

  1. I think I could summarize it very quickly: If the instructor was doing something that made me feel personally uncomfortable, I’d speak up in as much of a non-challenging way as I could; “What you’re doing makes me uncomfortable; I don’t think it’s really safe.” If he/she reacted badly to that, I’d walk away, as I’d walk away from any asshole. If they reacted well but dismissively, and kept doing it, I’d have to weigh my own discomfort and my own safety, to decide.

  2. “I was also surprised that people believed blue guns should be treated like regular guns. I thought the purpose of a blue gun was so you could do things with it you wouldn’t want to do with real firearms?”

    If the instructor is a numbnuts with a blue gun, what will they be with a real gun? Right, a numbnuts. Think of it as habituation–it they are in the habit of pointing blue guns at people they will point real guns at people.

    HOWEVER, some of this is in context. If we are doing disarm or retention drills and you NEED to point the blue gun at me, that is acceptable and why blue guns exist.

    “Do you have to follow the 4 rules with blue guns?”

    Yes. Discipline and habit.

    1. Also when doing disarm and retention drills with a blue gun, you will need to voilate several of the gun rules. But a bit of advice. Keep your finger out of the trigger gaurd.

      You don’t want your finger ripped around when doing disarms.

      And I’ll agree, the 4 rules are a good habit to get into. Thus, even with a blue gun, only voilate them when the training requires it, and only with the bluegun

      1. Agreed. You perform what you practice, so promoting unsafe practice will result in unsafe performance.

        I’d also note the same (basic) concept applies with using rubber knives in training drills. Using a training aid – like a blue gun or rubber knife – instead of the real article is ONLY a safety precaution (it’s still possible to hurt yourself or someone else with either), and does not excuse wanton silliness or stupidity; you don’t “play” with the training aids.

        I view them similar to personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace. You try to make a safe working environment and implement safe work practices. PPE should be the very last protection. IOW, if your PPE is what saves you, you’ve already failed twice.

  3. I can understand doing things w a blue gun the you would not normal do, however the practice of the safety rules are because in a stressful situation many revert to what is habit / trained to do. The best thing is to maintain the safety rules at all times so someone does not get lax with a blue gun and then carry that behavior over to the real thing as simple mistakes can hold deadly results.

  4. This is why it’s important to do your research and find qualified, competent, and safe instructors. You know, you there a certifying bodies for: Yoga, personal training, and track/field coaching. I know, the NRA certifies instructors. I don’t know why the respectable instructors would not get together and create a certifying body. It would weed out all the mall ninja schools that have popped up.

      1. Interesting find. But, it looks like you just give them $39 and call yourself a member. They even say there is no restriction on membership.

  5. I like blue guns in sparing rooms and sirt pistols in classrooms, but I don’t like them on a square range.

    Unloading and demonstrating the gun is unloaded is a ritual that declares the gun safe. Reloading it is a ritual that should remind you that it is loaded.

    Blue guns and SIRT pistols do a good job of training your brain that nothing bad happens when you press a trigger and it is too easy to set it down and do back to demonstrate with a live gun on a hot range.

    Knowing that you need to go through the ritual creates a mental break.

  6. I think I’d walk away. Louis Awerbuck warned us at the outset of his class that there had been a rash of stupid accidents recently, resulting in fatalities and warned us severely. He told us to walk away – so I would be respecting my teacher to do that. I don’t travel very far or much anyhow so I wouldn’t be out anything but the money, however mainly I’d walk away because I would NOT want to BE THERE to see the accident, the spattered brain-matter and blood – or even be there when the ambulances show up. I don’t rubberneck at acccidents. I’ve called-in the Ambulances (Life Flight) before and it wasn’t very fun or even educational – you really don’t “learn” from such experiences, you merely ~have~ them, or they have you. I think it would screw-up my gun-handling and training more than anything else I could imagine.

  7. I walk away when I am getting muzzle swept by a real firearm, loaded or otherwise. The moment the muzzle approaches the invisible “unsafe direction” line, I’m finished.

    Same goes for muzzle discipline training in close quarters with blue guns. Practicing a draw and someone walks in front of you. The gun should snap down into a safe direction and finger ought to be indexing the frame the whole time regardless. The goal is develop the instinct and muscle memory so it becomes automatic.

    I can and do differentiate blue gun and disarm training. I’ve done some pretty rough disarm resistance training but in an airsoft environment in full safety gear. That way the consequences of failure get felt without killing you. No ritualized training involved. A guy grabs your muzzle and attempts to forcible rip that firearm from your hands and you’re now trying to “kill” him, imaginary with the BB but for real in the violence that follows.

    I would never, ever do that with real steel, even knowing it was unloaded and I had checked it a dozen times. Use blue or use airsoft/paintball.

    I’m probably an outlier as I acquired a significant fraction of my firearms handling from a former military instructor and a SWAT CQB/urban combat trainer.

  8. After getting a healthy dose of paranoia instilled in me by a good instructor, I tend to treat anything with a trigger the same. I’ve had my kids laugh at me when I index my cordless drill, or avoid muzzling them with the instant-read infrared thermometer.

    I treat blue guns the same, and I’d be a little wary of an instructor who muzzles the class with one casually. During my holster qualification, for example, the instructor was always very explicit about breaking “the rules” with the blue gun; “I will stand in front of you and draw so you can see the mechanics from the front”, for example.

    Is it really paranoid? Perhaps. But as other comments have indicated, you revert to the most ingrained habits in very stressful or very comfortable situations. I’d much rather have an instructor who reverts to not muzzling me with a blue gun in the “I’ve done this ten thousand times” situation of a classroom than one who nonchalantly uses the training aid as pointing device.

    1. I index my finger on windex bottle, power drills, even tape guns, which don’t have triggers. Likewise I tend to carry them “muzzle-down.”

    2. I do the same. If it has a trigger I don’t place my finger on it until I want the reaction it causes to occur. I thought I was just odd. Maybe it’s a control thing.

    3. I don’t think that this is as paranoid as you make it out to be. I was playing with an instant-read infrared thermometer several weeks ago; I had pointed it at my forehead to read the temperature, and flashed myself with its laser. While I didn’t get any (obvious) permanent eye damage, I *really* wish I hadn’t done that!

      Had I treated the thing like a gun, it wouldn’t have happened.

    4. I had someone point out that I was doing the same the other day with my cordless drill. I didn’t even think about it. I took it as a sign that I was doing something right–the whole point is to get to the point where you’re doing the right thing, even when your distracted. Which is the problem with these “two sets of rules” people. Eventually you’re going to get distracted and forget which rules you’re following.

      If it’s paranoia, then it’s paranoia in a good cause. If a gun is never pointed at you, you’ll never get hit by a bullet. The four rules, if followed, reduce the chance of getting accidentally shot to virtually nothing. It means we don’t have to rely on the judgment/skill of other people when they’re handling a gun. I don’t know if his gun has been thoroughly cleared. But if he’s following the rules, we don’t have to worry about it.

  9. Like Tim, I tend to practice good trigger discipline on everything–my glue gun, power tools, and even blue guns. I can see the habit argument there on the specific issue of blue guns. On the other hand, they are meant to allow you opportunities for people to get familiar with firearms in a way that, should rules of safety be violated, no one will get hurt.

    For me, I think the biggest factor in deciding when a less-than-ideal safety situation turns into a bad situation is communication from the instructor. If there is going to be a need to violate a rule, a quality instructor is going to acknowledge it, discuss why their method may violate one of the fundamental rules, and generally walk the class through making the situation as safe as possible. Safety is more a mindset than a set of absolutes. I think a clear communication style about the situation does more to promote people thinking about safety all the time and making sure they are covering every step they possibly can than just telling people a set of rules over and over.

    The issue of clear communication goes beyond just safety in a class. For example, one of the teaching rules we learned in my NRA instructor course was not to touch the students. Far too many instructors are far too lax about this rule. I can say that as a women who has been in many shooting situations with strangers, I am not a fan of unwarranted and unannounced touching. However, the times when it’s been done because it might be needed, for example, extra support at the shoulder for something with heavy recoil, I am much less likely to tense up when I am told, “I’m just going to put my hand right back here behind your shoulder for a little extra support.” Even better is if something like “Do you mind?” is tacked on to the end.

    1. NRA instructor here and I’ve dealt with it by either asking before touching. Or informing upfront the one time I will reach out and touch without announcement: If the firearm begins to move backward in an unsafe direction, I will gently reach out and push the muzzle back downrange. I won’t touch the student’s hand unless I have to but I will push the gun back away from me. Usually in cases where the student holding it had a misfire and begins to turn to ask why. Gun in hand usually follows. It is a very common new shooter mistake. I make it clear I don’t ever want to be looking down the muzzle of one of my own guns. Especially since newbies don’t the instinct of the moment the gun is not being shot, the finger comes out of the trigger guard and is indexing the frame.

      Just a way to gently reinforce the Four Rules, specifically: The gun is always pointed in a safe direction. The lane next to you, the ceiling, the floor or my head are not safe directions.

  10. 1) A good reason to pay with a credit card that let’s you reverse charges easily.

    2) The Safety Rules are not Holy Writ, and they aren’t an excuse. I remember the tales of cops found dead with brass in their hands, because they were reflexively doing what they did in practice. Getting irrational over being muzzled won’t help me in a life-or-death situation: if a bad guy is muzzling me, I need to be thinking clearly. If a good guy sweeps me, I need to be thinking clearly. In a bad situation, I don’t want my automatic reflex to be obsessing over the stimuli (aka freezing up).

    1. Listening to your gut and walking away if something makes you feel unsafe applies to the world outside shooting ranges, too. It applies to dark alleys or bad dates or whatever. You don’t need to wait until the guy’s pulled out the knife or the duct tape to say “You know, maybe I just shouldn’t be here.

      1. “You don’t need to wait until the guy’s pulled out the knife or the duct tape to say ‘You know, maybe I just shouldn’t be here.'”

        Well, to be fair, for some people, for some people the reaction would be “You know, maybe I shouldn’t have left my ball gag and cat o’ nine tails at home.”

  11. Aside from safety considerations, there’s another good time to walk away: when you see the drama llama pulling into the parking lot.
    Don’t wait until he’s at the door, unless you want toget get llama spit all over you on your way out.

  12. “But a gun with the slide locked back and no magazine in it? I definitely wouldn’t appreciate an instructor who was waving it around like a squirt gun, but I probably wouldn’t have it in me to have a cow over it.”

    That’s where we differ. Pointing a real gun at me is NEVER acceptable behavior. I *may* be willing to stick around if the response is an immediate apology. As soon as someone says any variant of ‘it’s OK because …’ I’m out of there and will never go near them again unless they have a major attitude change. If they’re that fundamentally wrong about safety, I’m done with them.

  13. I used to teach Defensive Handgun classes to new shooters. I was very up front about my intolerance of safety rule violations. I also told my students that “If you see me do anything you think is unsafe call me on it publicly and we will discuss it.” I made it clear that all the rules applied to me exactly the same way they applied to the students. I taught on a hot range and none of my students was ever injured nor were there any close calls. There were a few unintended discharges that all went down range. Every time that happened I used it as a teachable moment.

    My own training included quite a bit of Simunitions force on force training. It was some of the most valuable training I ever did. It involved shooting at and being shot at by real people with real guns using Simunitions ammunition. The cost was high mostly because the environment had to be strictly controlled and the staff well trained. These days most force on force training seems to involve airsoft guns to keep costs and risk down. It isn’t quite the same, perhaps because being shot by an airsoft gun doesn’t hurt very much.

    I attended a couple of classes that I felt didn’t give me my money’s worth but never one where I thought the instructors were unsafe. I agree with those who say you should walk away as soon as YOU think you are being put in danger by an instructor. Consensus is not required.

  14. 1. Some of these comments do not make sense. You are saying that you can’t ever point a checked, cleared unloaded handgun with magazine out and slide locked back in the general direction of another person because you might somehow be training your subconscious brain that it is OK in some circumstances to point guns at other people, and you are worried that in a stressful situation you might revert to that line of thinking and / or action? I don’t know about you, but I definitely want my subconscious to know that it is sure as heck A-OK, just fine and dandy, to point guns at people when it is needed to defend my life. I don’t want my subconscious to have any doubt about that. When my life if threatened, I don’t want to have “trained” my subconscious to instantly drop the muzzle and point the gun away if someone is in front of the muzzle.
    2. If you must never allow anyone to ever point a checked, cleared unloaded handgun with magazine out and slide locked back, in the general direction of another person, how about a loaded gun, round in the chamber, slide forward, that is in your belt holster? Is that loaded gun safer than the slide-locked unloaded gun? Because if you’ve got a loaded gun in a holster on your belt, you probably point it at people all the time that way. Like for example, if you’re on the second floor of your house and your kids are downstairs, you’re point a gun at your kids. If you are in a store, and someone’s in the basement, you’re pointing a loaded gun at that person when you walk around the store. Etc. So, which is safer, the loaded gun in your holster, or the slide-locked, checked, cleared, no ammo, not even a magazine in the gun, being held in someone’s hand?
    3. If you shoot muzzle loader firearms, as I do, and you can get the firearm loaded without getting part of any of your fingers “downrange” at any time, then you have the most excellent skill and manual dexterity. I’d like to see you use a ramrod without getting any parts of your anatomy downrange of the muzzle. Not to mention that it is common practice (controversial and certainly not universal, but definitely common) to place ones mouth on the muzzle end after a shot and blow down the barrel. So obviously, a muzzle-loader shooter needs to be able to determine with a high level of accuracy if their firearm is loaded or unloaded, safe or unsafe. I don’t see any reason why the shooter of a breach-loading firearm can not also be expected to be able to determine if their firearm is safe, not safe, loaded, not loaded.
    4. I don’t own any striker fired firearms, but don’t you have to pull the trigger to disassemble those guns? How are you going to pull the trigger to disassemble the gun if “every gun is always loaded”???

    Obviously, those rules don’t actually apply to every situation (or you could not carry a gun in a holster, or load a muzzle-loader, or disassemble a striker-fired gun, etc) and you have to have the maturity and the brain to be able to determine if a gun is really safe or really not. Those “rules” give people an excuse to not use their brain. That is truly dangerous.

    1. On point 1)
      Any time you point a firearm at someone it should by a conscious decision. That’s the point of training your subconscious to avoid pointing at anyone you’re not willing to destroy. If someone is a threat, rule 3 isn’t an issue now is it?

      It is an issue with a real firearm though when the person isn’t a threat to you or your family.

      See rule 3, never muzzle anything you are not willing to destroy. If you and I are not in force on force training with each other, don’t muzzle me? Simple no? Even then use a training device, not a real firearm!

      On point 2) Holstered weapons are not in your hand and with a proper holster the trigger guard is covered and protected. Should you try to avoid it, yes. At Boomershoot we require that you unholster openly carried weapons if you’re shooting prone so you’re not flagging everyone behind you.

      The bigger issue here is whether or not, you as a human have a direct influence on the weapon. Holding it your hand, people can, and do, inadvertently pull the trigger. See the squeeze reflex as one example why.

      On point 3) With most muzzle loaders you can place them on half cock, which you do for blowing them out for airflow. That is considered a safety practice as pouring fresh powder into a barrel that may contain embers is dangerous. Second I don’t know of anyone that stores a muzzle loader, loaded for long periods of time. If they hunt with one, they either pull or shoot the load at the end of the day.

      Secondly with a muzzle loader you do not have issues of some people forgetting to pull the magazine. There is one shot, and it’s actually very simple to figure out if there’s a ball or powder in the barrel. If I’m unsure I can tell you the first thing I do is make sure there’s NO cap. Only then will I place a rod down the bore, and even then my hand will not be on top of the rod.

      About the closest my hand will ever come to covering the barrel is when using the ball starter. Only when getting the first couple inches started. After which my hand is on the outside of the ram rod. I never place my hand on top of the rod (ever seen one go off after the powder is compressed and there’s still an ember?)

      After you fire the rifle, it is clear is it not? You just shot it? If I set it down and walk away, I’m not going to muzzle my head with it to blow it out when I come back. That is done immediately after the shot if it’s done.

      *Also I’m muzzling myself, with a weapon in my control, and again a conscious decision. This to me is inherently different than my muzzling someone else without thought or care.

      On point 4) Not all striker fired pistols require you to pull the trigger. See the XDm. While some do require you to pull the trigger for dis-assembly would you point it at someone while pulling the trigger?

      No! Instead you would adhere to the other 3 rules and knowingly and consciously say, “I am going to pull the trigger, I need to keep this pointed in a safe direction with a solid backstop.” Carelessness is how accidents happen and any time you violate a rule it should be going through your mind why you’re violating it and why it’s acceptable. In order for someone to end up hurt or dead, at least 2 rules must be broken simultaneously. Making the act of breaking them a conscious decision prevents carelessness from breaking a second rule while you intentionally violate another.

      The point is, whenever you break any of the four rules is should be with purpose and thought. Lackadaisically pointing firearms at people because “it’s unloaded” is how people end up dead or with extra holes. I had someone point a rifle at me growing up that was “unloaded”. Guess what, it wasn’t.

      You muzzle me or anyone I know without cause or reason, I will become very angry, and pissed about it. A class explaining pistol mechanics, or demonstrating to someone how grip panels can crack, is not and excuse for poor muzzle control. With all the people attempting to justify it, it explains this, this.

      There is no calling a bullet back, there is no “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to” that really covers shooting someone else unintentionally. The rules exist for a reason and anytime you violate one of them you should both tell yourself why it’s OK and why it’s acceptable. Especially if you’re pointing it at someone else.*

      *Back to the training yourself to not be able to point a gun at someone under a stress situation. I disagree because during a stress situation you will fixate on a threat and your brain will exempt the necessary rules to point at them. Again, the point is your brain should avoid pointing at things it does not want to destroy. Tell me, would you want muzzle your wife in the same room as the aggressor?

      An immediate threat is a target you are willing to destroy. If you are willing to destroy someone, then by all means point at them. If you’re solution to train your brain to be able to shoot an aggressor is to point your gun at anyone and everyone without cause, you have serious problems.

      Force on force training is how you deal with this. In force on force you should use the right tools, a blue gun, simunitions, a training barrel, or other training aid. Real firearms should NOT be pointed at anything you’re NOT willing to part with. This includes your fellow students, instructors, or anyone else.

      The issue here is muzzling someone when there is no need or purpose with a real firearm, in which case you shouldn’t be. Tell me, if I’m not a threat and you sweep your muzzle across me, how should I feel? Have I inspected that chamber to verify it’s unloaded? Have I inspected that magazine well? No I haven’t so don’t point it at me.

      What you have done is informed me you’re willing to kill or maim me because you don’t care enough to control your !@#$ing muzzle.

      Word to the wise, I have already gone off on people publicly in front of a large group for doing it. I will do it again, because frankly I don’t give a !@#$ what they think about me at that point. It is a safety issue and 99% of the time it may not be a problem. There is that 1 time out of a hundred where someone ends up dead because they violated the rules. I’m not gonna be dead, nor my friends or family, because some @$$#^&3 couldn’t maintain is !@#$ing muzzle! If it’s a real firearm, that muzzle better only be pointed at someone who is an immediate threat to life. This is NOT difficult.

      Just because you want to be careless with handling firearms doesn’t mean I need to endanger myself for you. Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. In this case, sweeping me with a weapon, regardless of condition, without cause will result in being called out. You are endangering my life and those around me, because again, I haven’t cleared that weapon you have and I don’t know you from Adam.

      **But the slide’s locked back it’s safe right? So what, ever heard of a broken extractor? We’ve all seen bullets that don’t extract and they drop the hammer on an “empty” chamber resulting in a surprise. Rule 1 All guns are always loaded. Is it that difficult to realize that you shouldn’t point a real firearm at someone unless you intend to kill them?

      ***Sorry to go on a rant, but I don’t like people trying to skirt the rules because they feel they’re some how special. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and the rules exist to keep accidents from happening. Is gun, is not safe. You want to point a “gun” at someone for training, pick the right tool and make sure they agree. It’s that simple really.

    2. I have a cousin who was showing us his muzzle-loader; when he pulled the trigger, it didn’t go off. He then explained that what he was going to do next was “the scary part”: he was going to use his ramrod to pull out the bullet. The reason why it was scary was that he just pulled the trigger, and there could be embers in the chamber that could set off the powder, and send the ramrod through his hand.

      That is, by attempting to pull the misfired bullet out, he was knowingly violating a safety rule–and he was fully aware that the result of that violation could have been a badly injured hand.

      I don’t see how such situations can be used to justify rules violations for modern arms, though. In my mind, muzzle-loading violations only strengthen the importance of the Four Rules!

  15. I had an instructor NEVER once muzzle anyone in a very large group over two days, sitting at rows of tables six deep in a room just barely big enough for the group. If he can do it so can everyone else. That’s you too gunshop counter guys – both sides of it.
    I know he didn’t because he told everyone if ANY of us saw him do it, our fee would be refunded on the spot and the class was free. Everyone wanted a free class. We didn’t get one.
    He wouldn’t even do it with the toy 1911 he had (which was actually pretty neat).
    It takes concentration which should be on high anyway with a gun in your hand.
    This was before blue guns, but I reckon if there was a training technique that involved someone in front the muzzle, like a disarm, I’d be OK with a blue gun pointed at me for that.

    A real gun – F@CK NO! Don’t even do it once.
    I don’t care if we BOTH know its unloaded!
    I carry a Glock. Pulling the trigger for field stripping doesn’t bother me. I have double checked it to be unloaded and most times will triple check before pulling that bang switch.
    And just like any other gun it isn’t pointed in any direction but a safe one because its The Rules.

  16. Real gun, don’t muzzle. I don’t care if it’s locked back or not. Shit happens.

    Blue gun, if I ever need to/am going to violate a safety rule with a blue gun, I stop and say to the class specifically that this is a blue gun it is incapable of firing and what we are about to do we would never do with a real firearm. Every time. This way it is clearly a conscious decision.

    1. Blue gun, if I ever need to/am going to violate a safety rule with a blue gun, I stop and say to the class specifically that this is a blue gun it is incapable of firing and what we are about to do we would never do with a real firearm. Every time. This way it is clearly a conscious decision.

      Word up. That’s how it should be done.

  17. Flagging /muzzling me will generate a polite discussion, at first.

    As that discussion continues, my response will vary from:
    “OK as long as it doesn’t happen again”


    “What the hell do you mean it was safe? If you don’t recognize that you just broke one of the 4 rules and won’t own up to it, you are obviously a bad instructor and I want my money back now!”

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